Sunday, December 8, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Statistics and Superstitions

As you may know, I did a stint in gymnastics when I was in Junior High and High School. Mostly so I wouldn’t have to wear the horrible gym clothes. Gymnastics and modern dance sounded MUCH better than “corrective PE”, and both were better, and better than the green shorts and a white short-sleeved blouse of our regular PE clothes. Consequently, I can tell you that Cathy Rigby was 5’2” and so was I, but I don’t know much about regular sports.

It does seem that baseball has the most statistics of any sport ever. And baseball players seem to have a superstition for almost every statistic. If you know more than this, or if you’ve written any sports poems, submit them to Sport Lit — we’ve talked about them before. 

But there are some statistics I do keep track of, and thanks to a friend of mine, Pamelyn Casto, we encouraged the participants on the LinkedIn group I moderate to do the same. Pamelyn has published many articles and essays on flash fiction, myth, critical insights, and more, in Writer’s Digest, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading, The Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field, and so on. She is also Associate Editor at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters. This is a lovely online journal you might want to explore and submit to. They published me; they might publish you too.

Pamelyn is always juggling twelve plates and loves to research whatever interests her, but bless her heart, she is a wonderful, generous, accessible person who always has room for one more thing.

She just posted (on the LinkedIn Group):

“Post Your Writing Accomplishments for 2019 It's that time of year again-- a time to look back at the previous year and a time to look forward to what the future might bring. Please do post your writing accomplishments for 2019 (and that might urge you to either get more work out before year's end or get more work out there for 2020). It's always fun and informative to see some of the writing accomplishments of our writer colleagues. I look forward to reading all about it.”

This year people seem to be posting about individual collections they published. I look at something completely different. I count:

  1. The number of poems written;

  1. Number of submissions done (not the number of poems submitted, the number of journals to which I submitted);

  1. Number of acceptances received, and of course—

  1. Number of rejections

I do not count the poems written or submitted in 2018 that were accepted in 2019. I have the means to do it, and it would certainly take into account those journals with long turnaround times, but for me, it’s not that important.

Things I wish I HAD kept track of:

  1. The number of short fiction pieces written. I save everything under my “poetry file”; sometimes I remember, sometimes I don’t;

  1. The number of short fiction pieces submitted. At the risk of jinxing everything, I rarely, rarely write short fiction. I have always submitted it, and it has always been accepted, for which I am completely amazed and very thankful. But so far I have been, and always will be, 98% a poet. The other 2% is a mix between this blog post, moderating the LinkedIn site, the occasional jacket blurb, and short fiction. I am grateful to be developing all these skills but I am a poet.


IF you even care about this, I would encourage you to measure your work in some way. Just for yourself. I know a lot of novelists who measure how many words they’ve written each day; that is an important statistic to them. I measure how many words my blog posts are—no more than 1,000 words or someone will stab themselves, I mean, stop reading.

If you write, whether or not you choose to submit, you are a writer. If you are not currently measuring your progress in some way, think about it. You don’t have to tell anyone, post it anywhere, brag about anything or be sad about anything. It’s just that if you don’t know, you don’t know.

In the words of the amazing and brilliant Steve Almond:  

You don’t always know whether you’re writing well or badly, even in the middle of your career. Sometimes you write out of desperation. ”—On why we write

Stay warm, be safe, write well (sorry, Steve), don’t walk under any ladders, and measure if you want xo

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Open Reading: December 15, 3-5 at Space Cowboy in Joshua Tree!

The open reading will be held on the stage behind the store. Bring something of your own to read or a passage that inspires you. Prose is limited to two minutes. You're also welcome to simply come and listen to your neighbors. We invite the entire community to come in, share, and simply have a good time! All ages invited, and every event is free! See you there =:-) 

The celebration of the 80th anniversary of Lou Harrison's first publication is held jointly by the World Split Open Press, Harrison House, and Cholla Needles. Featuring 18 readers celebrating the love Lou was able to imbue into all his work. Come and enjoy the love!

Planned Readers:

Susan Abbott
Tanene Allison
Cynthia Anderson
Rose Baldwin
Bonnie Brady
Caryn Davidson
Anna Olivia Eve
Greg Gilbert
Gabriel Hart
George Howell
Peter Jastermsky
Dave Maresh
Kim Martin
Robert Morris
Susan Rukeyser
Kurt Schauppner
John Sierpinski
Eva Soltes
Rich Soos
Sylvia White

December Issue Released! Cholla Needles 36!

The loving seasonal cover this month 
is by the marvelous Rik Livingston, of Zonoart.

The beautiful words and dreams within are by

Lou Harrison
Tobi Alfier
Greg Gilbert
Danielle Hanson
John M. Bennett
Kelsey Bryan-Zwick
T. K. Splake
Romaine Washington
Francene Kaplan
Alan Catlin

This issue also contains photos from 

four different Art Tour Events 
featuring Cholla Needles.

We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at 
Rainbow Stew, Space Cowboy, JT Coffee, and Raven's Books. 
Support our local distributors!

New Book - David Chorlton - Speech Scroll

                    The chainsaw’s dawn song rings
                    out. Another slice falls
                    from the Earth: a forest disappears,
                    a mountaintop tumbles,
                    and a tree in someone’s yard
                    loses a limb. When the limb
                    is gone a pain remains, seeping
                    from the rough cut end. Where
                    have all the lost cats gone
                    whose photographs are posted on
                    local power poles? Their owners
                    want them back, but what about
                    the jaguars and the parrots
                    once common in the mountains
                    Geronimo fought to keep? Nobody
                    offers a hundred dollars
                    for their return. The circling hawk can’t find
                    the bough he perched on yesterday.

                           - David Chorlton
David Chorlton came to Phoenix from Europe in 1978 with his wife Roberta, an Arizona native. He quickly became comfortable with the climate while adjusting to the New World took longer. Writing and reading poetry have helped in that respect, as has exposure to the American small presses. He and Roberta have shared their living space with many cats and birds over the years.
Gilded Snow (Cholla Needles, 2019)
Reading T. S. Eliot to a Bird (Hoot 'n Waddle, 2018)
Bird on a Wire (Presa Press, 2017)
A Field Guide to Fire (FutureCycle Press, 2015)
Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2014)
The Devil's Sonata (FutureCycle Press, 2012)
Waiting for the Quetzal (March Street, 2006)
Return to Waking Life (Main Street Rag, 2004)
A Normal Day Amazes Us (Kings Estate, 2003)
Forget the Country You Came From (Singular Street, 1992)
The Slipstream Chapbook Award (2009)
The Ronald Wardall Prize (2008)

We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at Rainbow StewSpace Cowboy, and Raven's Books. Support our local distributors!

New Book - Knife Me Split Memories by Cindy Rinne


                    We try to cross the spider web bridge.
                    Her foot slips. I grab her hand
                    and fling her like a trapeze artist.
                    The survivor flips and lands on her feet.
                    Drops dance off the web onto singing grasses.
                    What happens next on the dream catcher?

Cindy Rinne creates fiber art and writes in San Bernardino, CA. She was Poet in Residence for the Neutra Institute Gallery and Museum, Los Angeles, CA. She has created fiber art for over 30 years, exhibiting internationally. Cindy collaborates in Performance Poetry using her own costume creations based on her books. Cindy is the author of several books: Letters Under Rock with Bory Thach, (Elyssar Press), Moon of Many Petals (Cholla Needles Press), and others. Her poetry appeared or is forthcoming in: Anti-Herion Chic, Unpsychology Magazine, MORIA, several anthologies, and others.

We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at Rainbow StewSpace Cowboy, and Raven's Books. Support our local distributors!

New Book - A Time Before Teachers - George Payne

                    A Way Out
                    the cloth of the cosmos
                    came undone at the seams—undone
                    like a bootleg Gucci handbag

                    the Pope declared heaven is not real and
                    Saturn was sucked into the belly of a black hole,

                    as all semblance of order evaporated into
                    the organic air of an American Spirit cigarette—
                    the dark green pack with that mild, additive-free taste

                    the glacier ice caps melted,
                    Capitalism collapsed
                    as all Hell broke loose
                    today, for the first time, my son climbed out of his crib


George Cassidy Payne was born in Oneonta, NY, grew up in several towns in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains, and eventually settled in Rochester, NY. He received a BA from St. John Fisher College, MA from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and MTS from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. A Time Before Teachers is his first book of collected poems.
Payne’s poetry has appeared in many journals, magazines, and anthologies, including Cholla Needles, The Adirondack Almanac, Mojave He{art}t Review, MORIA Poetry Journal, Ampersand Literary Review, Front Porch Review, Chronogram Magazine, Talker of the Town, Zingara Poetry Review, Ovi Magazine, River Poets Journal, Adelaide, Ink, Sweat, and Tears, Califragile, Deep South Magazine, Amethyst Review, From the Edge Poetry Magazine, and others. His blogs, essays, and letters to the editor, have appeared in national and international publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Toronto Sun, the Havana Times, the Atlantic, and Rolling Stone.
In 2010 he was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at Rainbow StewSpace Cowboy, and Raven's Books. Support our local distributors!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Happy Almost Thanksgiving

Whether you’re cooking, traveling, or expecting company, my guess is you’re gonna be pretty busy this coming week. We’ll save “Growing Your Writing” for next week and just do something fun.

Thanksgiving/ Holiday Prompt:

Write anything: either a prose poem, a free-verse or form poem, or a short piece of fiction from the viewpoint of an orchestra.

Let the cook be the conductor and see where the prompt takes you.

            Maybe all the different dishes are the instruments

            Or the pieces of each table setting are the instruments

            The empty chairs might be a theater waiting for the audience to arrive

            Maybe the different dishes are the audience

            Or the guests are the audience. Describe them

            Describe the musicians. Maybe they are the different dishes

            Is there wine? Maybe the wine is the conductor’s baton

            Is it buffet or sit down?  What is the buffet line, guests or food?

from wikipedia
If you can, see the cook greeting everyone in the kitchen, wearing a white apron and holding a ladle in one hand as she directs them to pour a glass of wine, or

carving a turkey with a knife/baton as long as a tree limb, the slices falling off silent and even as the anticipation builds up, guests being directed to tables dressed with fresh flowers and chafing dishes, or

the violins of roasted asparagus tuning up with the flutes of snap peas, the twinkle of triangle bubbles, the percussion of stuffing overlaid by the horns calling the traditional dishes to sound out the key of C.

If not, what can you see? 

The beginning of October I wrote about Odes, and quickly riffed an Ode to Mashed Potatoes:

Think about the silky smoothness of them on your tongue,
the way you can make a well for the gravy
and it’s a reservoir just for you and your spoon.

How they’re like the desert clouds softly floating by
out the window, a bed
with the softest flannel sheets caressing your palate

as you dream of turkey and stuffing,
cranberry sauce five ways,
and the matching pumpkin pie—

softness waiting just for you—
before you grab your sleeping bag,
go out on the porch to watch for falling stars.

If something like that works for you, write that. 

Write it before the holiday or after the holiday.

Take notes during the dinner if you want (but please don’t write on anyone’s cloth napkins…grab a notepad from next to the phone). If you write anything you'd like to share, PLEASE add it to the comments! I'd love to see what you came up with!

Be thinking about it, have a wonderful dinner, drive safely, use potholders if you’re cooking, and remember that the next day, a turkey sandwich on egg bread, with mayonnaise, lettuce, and a pinch of salt is the next best thing to heaven!!!! xo

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.